Robert Kaplan on the Regional Dimensions of Afghanistan

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Center for a New American Security Senior Fellow Robert Kaplan has an excellent op-ed in today’s New York Times that offers a balanced assessment of the regional and great power dimensions of the United States’ involvement in Afghanistan.
As Steve Clemons and Steve Coll have noted in recent weeks, the debate over what strategy to pursue in Afghanistan is not simply a choice about the future of our involvement in that country, but a much broader question about the future of South Asia, which has major implications for all of the world’s major powers.
He points out that China and Russia are essentially free-riding on the stability and economic benefits that the United States’ military involvement in Afghanistan brings.
From the article:

In Afghanistan, American and Chinese interests converge. By exploiting Afghanistan’s metal and mineral reserves, China can provide thousands of Afghans with jobs, thus generating tax revenues to help stabilize a tottering Kabul government. Just as America has a vision of a modestly stable Afghanistan that will no longer be a haven for extremists, China has a vision of Afghanistan as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. So if America defeats Al Qaeda and the irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, China’s geopolitical position will be enhanced.
This is not a paradox, since China need not be our future adversary. Indeed, combining forces with China in Afghanistan might even improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The problem is that while America is sacrificing its blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits. The whole direction of America’s military and diplomatic effort is toward an exit strategy, whereas the Chinese hope to stay and profit.

Kaplan questions the wisdom of a sustained military involvement and warns that “this is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.”
(Photo Credit: White House Photostream)
— Ben Katcher

Comments

41 comments on “Robert Kaplan on the Regional Dimensions of Afghanistan

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    JUAN COLE on Muslims:
    “Thursday, October 08, 2009
    Nearly One in Four Persons on Globe is Muslim
    CNN reports that nearly one in four human beings is Muslim, based on a new extensive survey by the Pew Forum for
    Religion in Public Life.
    (…)
    If current demographic trends continue, moreover, the world could level off at about 9 billion persons in 2050, and
    nearly 1/3 of those could well be Muslim. The really big Muslim populations are not in the Middle East, which is
    largely arid and wouldn’t support such populations. It is in relatively well-watered places such as Pakistan, India,
    Bangladesh, and Indonesia in Asia where the bulk of Muslims live. Pakistan now has about 170 million people but is
    likely to rival the current US population of 300 million in the next few decades. (When I first went to Pakistan in 1981
    I think its population was, like, 70 million).
    I don’t think most people in the West realize the implications of the likelihood that one-third of humankind may
    soon be Muslim. We don’t have a real sense of scale in the US. We don’t realize that Brazil alone is nearly as big as
    the US in area, or that the US could be fitted into East Africa. We don’t realize how huge Iran is, or what it implies
    when we call India a subcontinent.
    One of the implications is that the US is a little unlikely to thrive as a superpower in the 21st century if its more venal
    and bloodthirsty politicians go on barking about “Islamo-fascism” (they never said Christo-Fascism even though
    Gen. Franco in Spain was a good candidate for the label) and denigrating Islam and Muslims and seeking to militarily
    occupy their countries and siphon off their resources. That kind of behavior may have worked in the 19th century
    before Muslims were mobilized, but it does not work now.
    The Muslim world is the labor pool of the next century, and is also the custodian of much of the world’s fuel. New
    American crusades of the sort favored on the right of the Republican Party may finally induce imperial overstretch
    and deeply harm the US. Some 5 percent of the population cannot dominate by force 25 percent of the globe and
    what may eventually be 33% of the globe.”
    http://www.juancole.com/

    Reply

  2. arthurdecco says:

    “Can the US go on forever like this?” WinstonK
    Not a chance.

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  3. WinstonK says:

    The Afghans will surely be thrilled at the prospect of working for China while it “exploits Afghanistan’s metal and mineral reserves”. Another brilliant piece of strategic thinking from the neo-cons. And “using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad” is simply a re-edition of bombing the natives from the gunboats. Can the US go on forever like this?

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  4. ... says:

    American policy makers continue to take the bait because they’re on the receiving end of the booty.. your ‘dumbocracy’ at work….

    Reply

  5. JohnH says:

    JamesL said: “those who stand to benefit from the US’ vainglorious exertions would best act in ways to keep the US exactly where it is: not winning, not losing, alive but bleeding.” How true! Every day that military misadventures suck the lifeblood out of the American economy, Al Qaeda’s dreams come closer to becoming reality. People tend to forget that Osama’s goal was to get the US into a quagmire like the one that helped precipitate the demise of the Soviet Union…
    Wherever he is, dead or alive, Osama must be smiling. And to think that American policy makers continue to take the bait!

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  6. PrahaPartizan says:

    I’ve read most of Kaplan’s books and have found that they have experienced a distinct drift toward militarism. For some bloody reason he hasn’t twigged to the fact that the military is the only US entity in these places because it’s the only branch of US government which has been given any funding worth a crap. The Republicans have denigrated and starved State for a generation and then we wonder why we’re reduced to using only a gun as a tool of national policy. Our military isn’t the only expression of US policy and attitude that could be available to us but it is the only one when pushed by the people Kaplan has decided to support.
    Kaplan is correct that China, Russia and India benefit disproportionately if they’re not forced to participate in rebuilding Afghanistan on a collective basis. If the US assumes the total burden because it’s makes some of us feel all macho and righteous, well, then, we should expect to watch the Russians, Chinese and Indians laugh all the way to the bank as we bleed out in Afghan valleys. Why aren’t they being pressed to contribute to an Afghan reconstruction fund which would provide a long-term (at least five and better a ten-year) rebuilding effort? We’re gonna need at least $25 billion per year for at least that long. Let the fund be administered by the UN or an independent high commission to be established by the UN. We could even twist a few arms over in the Gulf so that we could get those folks who supported and encouraged the people who committed 9-11 to actually bear some of the burden for their beliefs.

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  7. ... says:

    charlie wilsons present view on afganistan.
    http://blog.buzzflash.com/alerts/699
    n an interview with the Pennsylvania paper, Wilson said he advocates a “calculated withdrawal” of American troops from the country, “rather than lose a lot of soldiers and treasure.”
    On the eight-year anniversary of the beginning of the war in Afghanistan and during the heated debate in Washington over whether President Obama should commit more American troops to the region, Wilson’s words are incredibly significant. While many have argued recently that the war is unwinnable because Afghanistan is one of the most indomitable countries on the planet, hearing a passionate defender of the Afghan peoples’ right to self-govern say we should pull out is starkly different from typical anti-war sentiment.
    Wilson’s reasoning is that we cannot beat the people we are fighting in Afghanistan:
    “I’d rather take on a chain saw,” Mr. Wilson said. “They’re the world’s best foot soldiers, best warriors. And they’re fearless.
    “They’re fearless, and they’ve got nothing to lose. And they have a pretty serious hatred for those who try to occupy their country.”

    Reply

  8. Outraged American says:

    India is not great to visit if you are female. My two trips back
    were a 24 hour a day sexual assault.
    Again, despite being an Anglo-Indian (mixed blood) I look
    Swedish, and I was attacked literally dozens of times a day. In
    India groping women, which happens to every woman, is called
    “Eve-teasing” — go figure why Hindus/ Muslims would bring-
    up “Eve.”
    I just wouldn’t worry about India taking over the world. India
    couldn’t organize a PTA meeting, but if Iran is bombed and
    Pakistan sides with Iran, then…
    China, and I’ve only been to Tibet — the Chinese are ruthless
    there — I would be worried about much more, especially since
    they hold a huge percentage of our treasury bonds and…old
    news.
    We’re just screwed in any case.

    Reply

  9. ... says:

    oa – i think a few of us have been to india.. me for one anyway… i agree india is chaotic.. that is what i like about it… some other stuff i don’t like but overall the people are great to foreigners…at least that was my impression.. i would go again, although india does wear on you the longer you are there!

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  10. Outraged American says:

    Don’t worry about India: the only thing India could do this
    century is start WW III.
    Has any poster been to India, besides me?
    India redefines chaos. They can’t even figure out which god or
    goddess is which. India makes Nepal and Sri Lanka look like
    Japan in terms of being orderly, clean and “civilized.”
    Wig’s favorite meme right now is that India is going to take over
    the world. WIg seriously needs to sublet her condo and get a
    Hep A, B, C, E and F shot, malaria pills and head on over to
    Bombay, which is now Mumbai, or something equally miserable
    to spell.
    Then Wig can see firsthand how much of a threat India is to her
    beloved Yisrael. Even if Yisrael sold India nuclear technology, or
    weapons, which Israel has, the Indians would be too
    disorganized to figure out what button to push to set them off,
    or blow the whole Subcontinent up inadvertently.
    For newbies, I am from India, so don’t blame Steve for me.

    Reply

  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Congress moving to block release of torture
    A little-noticed provision in a homeland security funding bill could end efforts to make public photos of prisoners abused in US custody abroad, the American Civil Liberties Union stated on Wednesday.
    Members of the House and Senate have added a provision proposed by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) to the funding bill that would make such photos exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, meaning that, if the law is upheld, the Pentagon could continue to suppress the photos, the ACLU said.
    continues….
    http://rawstory.com/2009/10/congress-block-torture-photos-aclu/
    Lieberman, eh??? No doubt with the able assistance of the sack of shit Reid.
    Has it occured to anyone else that perhaps the reason for blocking these photos might have less to do with WHAT was being done, than WHO was doing it??? Considering the infamous photo of one of the guards at Abu Ghraib sporting an Israeli IDF tattoo, perhaps the gravity of what was being done is a lesser issue than who was doing it, at least in respect to why these ogres like Lieberman are fighting the photo’s release.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Great post, Paul. It appears you’ve got questions’ pretty well pegged.

    Reply

  13. Paul Norheim says:

    Norway does not employ contractors. As a Norwegian I feel very guilty and worried
    thinking about this fact. But to be honest, I would also feel extremely guilty if we
    employed contractors.
    Except for Afghanistan, Norway is not directly involved in any wars. This makes me very
    worried. Imagine all the bad stuff happening in so many bad countries because we don`t
    invade them, unilaterally or in some kind of coalition! This has so many unintended
    consequences that It makes me crazy just thinking about it.
    All this suffering happening all the time because of our absence, and the fact that Norway
    doesn`t employ mercenaries… And then all the suffering if a private Norwegian army
    actually was present in some remote African or Central Asian country!
    It is so complicated that I don`t know what to say! And this even makes me more
    talkative, which even creates more guilt. What if I tried to create some sort of private
    army to invade someone, instead of just ranting on a blog? On the other hand, wouldn`t
    that create even more unintended consequences?! Ough!!! Better read up on Plato.

    Reply

  14. JamesL says:

    John H: “China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible…This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.””
    The quote is blatent. The reality would be/is/will be imperceptible. That is, those who stand to benefit from the US’ vainglorious exertions would best act in ways to keep the US exactly where it is: not winning, not losing, alive but bleeding. The fatal flaw of fading imperialistic powers is not their exertions, but their narcissistic (heavy lifting–cast your eyes on those muscles!) inability to recognize the receding return on those exertions. Thus the hope that “more” troops, or different troops (naval and air power) will help. Just a little more, and a little more…. The faith of the faithful is to myth, not the reality.
    If he is to be successful, Obama’s task is to be able to act outside the myth. He can start is his own, if he’s up to it. But he can’t hang his hat on the oldies and goodies that are now out of date.

    Reply

  15. PissedOffAmerican says:

    So, I guess questions’ argument is that if American corporations can’t engage in trafficking sex slaves while under contract with the United States Government, they aren’t going to do business with us anymore. So we better not hold them accountable.
    That’s questions’ twisted bit of assholishness d’jour.
    I guess he and Wiggie have decided to have a competition, of sorts. Its gonna be close. I really would hate to be the judge. But for pure despicability and general scumbaggishness, I’m afraid I would probably call it a draw.

    Reply

  16. arthurdecco says:

    questions claims: “For every bit of suffering you can detail that we (the USA) inflict with our current behavior, though, one could toss out some other suffering that would happen in our absence.”
    Preposterous, conceited hogwash!
    You just made that supposition up out of whole cloth! You have no idea what goes on in America’s absence – especially when you consider how you do get your limited information when you eventually get it fed to you.
    What is it about you almost-American wackos and your bizarre and unrealistic sense of exceptionalism? Grow up, already!
    And you have just reached a new low in my estimation, questions with this: “And if we didn’t protect the contractors, we might not have any contractors.” I can’t believe you just blithely excused these appalling crimes because of America’s insatiable appetite for state-employed murderers.
    Is this how it goes?… What’s a couple of 11 year old girl’s sold into sex slavery against keeping the troops, private and otherwise, happy?
    You’re a depraved and evil sack of shit, questions. Full stop.

    Reply

  17. Outraged American says:

    Questions is a flower child in the way she talks about “liberal”
    intervention. Except Palestinians,the Untermenschen (sub-
    humans) to the Zionists. If Israel had been placed in Rwanda
    we’d be fighting Uganda for her benefit.
    Again, this brings up the dichotomy in many “progressive” US
    Jews — only the ones who support Zionism — they want us to
    schlep around the world “saving” random and sundry by killing
    them, as in the case of Afghan women, who do look better in
    shrouds than burkas.
    Yet Israel and her extensive roguery and the massacres she
    perpetrates in just about every neighbor or subdivision, like the
    Gaza Strip, is given a free pass by Zionists, and, in other ways
    by some “progressive” US Jews.
    Well, no, because Israel is given a 3-15 billion US dollar a year
    pass. And she doesn’t attack countries like Egypt and Jordan
    because we pay/ coerce them to be Israel’s “friend.”
    Questions, my state is dead broke, and yet you want to save the
    world by killing it.
    Geez, I hope you spend your time baking cookies or knitting
    ugly sweaters for Wig Wag (Florida does get chilly) rather than
    making policy.

    Reply

  18. questions says:

    It’s not just contractors, as you’d find if you read Blowback.
    And if we didn’t protect the contractors, we might not have any contractors. And if we didn’t have contractors doing this work, we wouldn’t have a privatized military/mercenary force. We’d have ever lower standards for military recruitment and a lot more immigrants given citizenship to join. Probably no draft though.
    And even without the contractors, there’d be plenty of sex and sex crimes.
    You do realize that soldiers and illicit sex go together like, umm, straw and early retirement.
    Since you’re clearly suddenly not an isolationist, what are your criteria for sending in the troops? What sets of obligations? You want US troops to attack Israel to defend the Palestinians, or do you just want your money repatriated so you’re not PAYING for injustice? What obligations do you feel? And do you think simply not-paying is enough to meet them?
    And is the only problem with the 12-year old sex slave the “on our dime” part? You seem very worried about where your money goes, more so than about a lot of other complicating issues.

    Reply

  19. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “But your automatic isolationism is its own problem and you should really think it through instead of feeling that you’ve washed your hands of the dirt of the world”
    Oh screw off, questions. If straw was money, you coulda retired at twenty.
    Has it occured to you that if we were not protecting contractors that engage in such practices, and held them accountable, that the next contractor might not engage in such practice?
    Your “well, its just a fact of life” argument is bullshit, which, of course, is nothing new.
    And because I don’t want some slimeball piece of shit screwing and selling a twelve year old sex slave ON OUR DIME, makes me an “isolationist”???
    Like I said, go screw yourself, you are truly a world class asshole.

    Reply

  20. questions says:

    POA, all this stuff comes up in __Blowback__. Somehow we’re not good at making the sex/soldier connection. That is, somehow, one is “against” the soldiers if one mentions this shit. It is depressing. __Bananas, Beaches and Bases__ from maybe 25 years ago looked at this issue in detail. Worth a trip to a library to skim over.
    The problem is that, yes, the soldiers and contractors are wicked presences. But the domestic political scene isn’t great either. What a trade off.
    For every bit of suffering you can detail that we inflict with our current behavior, though, one could toss out some other suffering that would happen in our absence. The world isn’t better without the US, it’s just different. Perhaps we wouldn’t be here without the original funding of the mujahideen, but here we are. Responsible, culpable, wicked, damned if we do or don’t.
    Undoing the Cold War is Herculean. Sadly, Xe Corp. and DynCorp ain’t Hercules.
    But your automatic isolationism is its own problem and you should really think it through instead of feeling that you’ve washed your hands of the dirt of the world.

    Reply

  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Seeing as how woman’s rights, and Afghanistan seem to be a topic this week…
    Heres how much these bastards running the war game REALLY care about womnen’s rights….
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KJ06Df03.html
    Sex and security in Afghanistan
    By David Isenberg
    A report by the Washington, DC, Project on Government Oversight recently released publicly tells of the wild naked antics of members of ArmorGroup (AG), which has a United States State Department contract to provide security for the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
    Hardly mentioned is the use of local bordellos by some contractors. It took a lawsuit filed on September 9 by James Gordon, a former ArmorGroup director of operations, and subsequent whistleblower, against ArmorGroup North America and associated defendants – ArmorGroup International (AGI), Wackenhut Services Inc (WSI), and various management individuals – to bring details to light. Among other things he charges that AG:
    Allowed AGNA managers and employees to frequent brothels notorious for housing trafficked women in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and shutting down the plaintiff’s efforts to investigate and put a stop to these violations.
    Deliberately withholding documents relating to violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act allegedly committed by AGNA’s program manager and other AGNA employees when responding to a document demand from US Congressman Henry Waxman on behalf of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
    This is not the first time issues of private military and security contractors and sex have come up. But the pattern of not doing anything when offenses are reported remains depressingly familiar.
    As an article in the winter issue of the Wisconsin International Law Journal recounts, in 2000, employees of DynCorp Inc, a Virginia-based private military security company (PMSC) employed by the United Nations Police Task Force in the Balkans, were accused of participating in a Bosnian sex slavery ring. Kathryn Bolkovac, a DynCorp employee working as a UN Police Force monitor, reported to her supervisors that her male colleagues had made comments about women they owned. Bolkovac was fired soon after.
    It is worth noting that investigations of DynCorp had begun before Bolkovac became involved. In 1999, Bosnian police launched an investigation after local media reported that five male DynCorp employees had purchased female prostitutes from a Serbian organized crime outfit. The Bosnian government informed the commander of the US Regional Task Force of the allegations and the army requested that DynCorp remove the five men within 48 hours.
    DynCorp transferred the accused to Germany for investigatory interviews in response to evidence that the accused employees had not only consorted with local mobsters and warned them of imminent raids, but had actually engaged in trafficking themselves. Having effectively removed them from the jurisdiction of the Bosnian police, DynCorp then released the employees without alerting American or international law-enforcement officials of the allegations against them. This satisfied the army.
    But at least seven other DynCorp employees, including a supervisor, continued to engage in sex crimes. After overhearing a fellow helicopter mechanic brag, “My girl’s not a day over 12,” then-DynCorp employee Ben Johnston reported this and other trafficking-related activities to the Army Criminal Investigative Command (CID) at Camp Comanche in Dubrave, Bosnia.
    The CID began an investigation, but quickly determined that the American military did not have jurisdiction over UN contractor employees. Alerted by CID, the Bosnian police began an investigation, but mistakenly believed that they, too, lacked jurisdiction to arrest UN Task Force contractor employees. By the time the Bosnian police did move to make arrests, the employees in question had been transferred beyond the reach of local authorities. Like Bolkovac, Johnston was fired. His supervisors claimed that he had discredited the company by bringing unsubstantiated charges against his coworkers and that he had “brought discredit to [Dyncorp] and to the US Army”.
    In late 2002, Bolkovac won 10,000 pounds sterling (US$16,000 at the current rate) in damages after a British tribunal found that DynCorp Aerospace UK Ltd, a subsidiary of DynCorp, violated the United Kingdom’s whistle-blowing statute – the Public Interest Disclosure Act of 1998 – when the company fired her. DynCorp then agreed to settle a suit brought by Ben Johnston two days before the case went to trial in Texas. The amount of his settlement is confidential.
    Nine of the employees investigated by CID and transferred out of the country by DynCorp were Americans. Only seven were fired and none were criminally prosecuted. The employee who had claimed to own a 12-year-old sex slave was among those investigated and allowed to remain with the company. CID agents escorted another man to the airport from where he was flown out of the country.
    While still in Bosnia, the man had admitted that he had purchased a Moldovan woman and an Uzi from a local bartender active in the Serbian mob. The employee was subsequently released from his job with DynCorp but was never charged with any crime. Unless the implicated employees return to Bosnian jurisdiction, they cannot be arrested or tried for the trafficking and related sex crimes they committed in 2000.
    In a foreshadowing of the current situation with ArmorGroup, Dyncorp denied any culpability. However, it did admit to a battle to control its employees. Back then, DynCorp’s selection procedures for choosing employees to work in Bosnia, which the company claimed was very rigorous and detailed, and subsequent procedures for checking their conduct in the field, failed to separate, or later identify, those who were likely, or did, take advantage of the situation and purchased prostitutes.
    DynCorp was not particularly hurt by the scandal. A few weeks after Bolkovac won her damages, the British government announced a Ministry of Defense contract award to a consortium that included DynCorp to supply support services for military firing ranges.
    In 2003, it a won multi-million-dollar contract to help train Iraqi police in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Although mindful of what happened in Bosnia, personnel recruited had to acknowledge in writing that human trafficking and involvement with prostitution “are considered illegal by the international community and are immoral, unethical and strictly prohibited”.
    For all the claims of the private military and security sector that they don’t condone such behavior, it is important to note the difference between the private and public sectors. A 2005 study “Barracks and Brothels: Peacekeepers and Human Trafficking in the Balkans” by the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, noted that in 2004, the US Department of Defense (DoD), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the United Nations each adopted a zero-tolerance policy on trafficking. It also noted that each of these organizations “has been reluctant to address the security implications of misconduct by uniformed service members and civilian contractors, especially involving human rights abuses”.
    The report noted that the DoD’s Inspector General’s formal investigation in 2003 into complicity of DoD personnel in the Balkans was superficial and pro forma. Had DoD personnel followed the leads they were given, they would have found evidence of civilian contractor complicity in human trafficking.
    In August 2007, there was a brief flap when “Tori” the Escort, from Atlanta, Georgia, announced she was going to be in Baghdad’s Green Zone for an extended tour. Her post on an escort review message board read, “While in the IZ, I am in a unique position of entertaining from a secured compound. I’m entertaining all members of the PMC [private military contractors] community registered with PSCAI [Private Security Company Association of Iraq] with a few stipulations. My compound is within the central population and easy to find.”
    In a statement, Lawrence Peter, director of PSCAI, said Tori’s use of the group’s name and logo were unauthorized. “We have not, nor ever will, condone the type of activity suggested,” he said. “We are currently investigating the source of these allegations and any association member found promoting, condoning or participating in these activities will be immediately expelled.”
    With events like these as background it is instructive to consider current events.
    According to Gordon’s lawsuit on or about November 8, 2007, ArmorGroup North America deputy program manager Jimmy Lemon informed Gordon and Puja Power, the acting director of Human Resources, that AGNA’s armorer (the official in charge of the upkeep of small arms, machine guns and ammunition) was not properly performing his duties and had recently been forcibly removed during work hours from a brothel in Kabul. Gordon instructed Ms Power to initiate action to terminate him at once.
    A short time later, Power reported to Gordon that when she confronted the armorer about his misconduct, he stated that he could not be terminated because program manager Nick du Plessis and medic Neville Montefiore had frequented these brothels with him.
    Gordon knew that the procurement of commercial sex acts by AGNA employees violated the laws of the United States and the Kabul Embassy contract. He was concerned both because the frequenting of brothels by AGNA personnel raised security concerns about the guard force’s ability to safeguard the US Embassy and because it was well known that young Chinese girls were trafficked to Kabul for commercial sexual exploitation, in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The act and its implementing regulations prohibit contractors, like ArmorGroup and their employees, from engaging in severe forms of trafficking in persons and from procuring commercial sex acts during the period of performance of the contract.
    According to the US State Department’s 2008 Trafficking in Persons Report, Afghanistan is a destination for women and girls from China, Iran and Tajikistan trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. Afghan children also are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation.
    continues……..
    Didn’t know about any of this, didcha? Gotta love the Fourth Estate, eh??
    Fantastic, we are winning hearts and minds by hiring contractors whose employees are trading in human sex slaves, and, when caught, are protecting these sick fuckin’ perverts. Whats worse, our government knows about it, and STILL gives these corporations lucrative contracts.
    They hate us for our freedoms, doncha know.

    Reply

  22. samuelburke says:

    “The article in the U.K. Independent newspaper about “secret” meetings with several members of the G20, the Brics, Japan, and several Arab countries dumping the dollar price of oil and going to a basket of currency pricing, including Gold, is gaining traction in the markets. Is it plausible at this time ? The answer is a resounding yes as it will send a signal that a changing economic world has grown and is growing tired, very tired, of the economic irresponsibility of the US. In 1971 when the Secretary Treasurer made that cynical remark to the world that “it is our dollar but your problem” the world economic order now has an answer. It is that we are mad as hell and not going to take them anymore! But what are the ramifications for the current state of global economics affairs and what should we watch for?”
    http://jsmineset.com/

    Reply

  23. JohnH says:

    It does appear that Kaplan’s piece is rife with contradictions–getting the hell out without ignominy. Still having influence, but relying on air and naval power. Still having influence but combining forces with China.
    Any way you cut it, Washington’s influence is going to decline dramatically. In case you hadn’t noticed, the dollar is under attack again. China is simply not going to take worthless dollar IOUs to fund misadventures around the world. And neither are other countries. That means that the US is going to have to cut defense spending to pre-Bush 43 levels, issue debt in foreign currencies, raise taxes on the wealthy to fight its misadventures, print money, or raise interest rates to attract more domestic capital, or a combination of the above. There are simply no easy solutions. Funny how nobody in Washington bothered to notice the storm clouds looming.
    Basically, US foreign policy is bankrupt financially and morally, so any regional solution will be about helping the US save face and leave without ignominy.
    Kaplan’s lays out what is actually a hopeful path–maintaining influence while pulling back. His attackers will their best to stay in denial and maintain the fantasy of US global power.

    Reply

  24. WigWag says:

    JohnH,
    Apropos of our earlier discussion of the meaning of Kaplan’s Op-Ed, here’s Steve Walt’s take on what Kaplan was getting at (from Walt’s blog at Foreign Policy). I think Walt’s interpretation is pretty close to mine.
    “…Robert Kaplan takes this line in an op-ed in today’s New York Times, arguing that “an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight….
    Nonetheless, the main thrust of Kaplan’s piece is well worth pondering. He points out that while the United States is doing the heavy lifting in Afghanistan, the chief beneficiaries of success will be China (and to a lesser extent Russia and India). He notes that past empires declined “by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.” And his conclusion is right on the money: “history suggests that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and airpower from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.”

    Reply

  25. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I see WigWag has wrapped herself in her snakeskin again. Fortunately, her rare emergings have painted a truer picture of the nature of the beast.

    Reply

  26. Paul Norheim says:

    And Steve,
    you`re writing a book right now, aren`t you? I assume that it will be available as
    an e-book as well as in print?

    Reply

  27. WigWag says:

    You know what’s interesting, Paul, many publishers are frightened of the Kindle and related E-Readers. Because the books are so much less expensive in electronic form than they are in hard cover or soft cover, the publishers (and also authors as well)are afraid that they will make less money.
    To me this is strange. Every time a new music format comes out e.g. compact discs or mp3 people run out and buy music they already own in the old format for the new format. The music publishers get to sell the same intellectual property over and over again.
    I think that at least 20 percent of the books I have in an electronic format on my Kindle, I already own on my bookshelves. I bought them in electronic form because I like to be able to carry them with me whereever I go. You couldn’t carry “War and Peace,” “Moby Dick” “Don Quixote,” “Leaves of Grass” and “À la recherche du temps perdu,” with you in your purse or your brief case; with an E-Reader it’s easy to take them with you and look at whatever you want whenever you want.
    I assume the book publishers are also worried about piracy which has destroyed the record business but as far as I know, piracy has not been a problem with E-Books, at least so far.
    If I were you, Paul, I would wait a few months until the Apple product is available to see how it compares. My one piece of advice would be not to buy a device that doesn’t allow you to download books wirelessly; that is truly one of the greatest features of all time.
    Note to Nicholas Schmidle: If you read this blog, why isn’t “To Live or To Perish Forever” available in electronic form?

    Reply

  28. Paul Norheim says:

    WigWag,
    I just had a look at the Kindle store. Within a couple of minutes, I saw more
    than a dozen books frequently referred to at TWN that I would like to order, and
    a lot of other interesting books as well. (Clausewitz for 0,99…) It will be
    difficult to wait until next summer, but I think it would be wise. I would assume
    that the new Apple gadget will have 32 or 64 GB of memory, making it possible to
    store huge parts of my music collection and plenty of photos. This will be very
    useful while I am traveling in Ethiopia and other places. With an external
    keyboard, I assume that I can write text quite comfortably on the Apple tablet PC
    as well.
    But the Kindle store was fantastic!

    Reply

  29. WigWag says:

    Paul,
    I have heard about the Apple Product and there are several others in development as well. SONY has an e-reader out now that I looked at. Unfortunately it’s no good. It’s clunky and I didn’t like the screen. Most importantly, you had to connect the E-Reader to your computer to download books. With Kindle you can do it wirelessly which is really great.
    The New York Times (technology section) recently had an article on the numerous E-Readers likely to come out in time for Christmas; you may want to search for it.
    JohnH,
    In case you’re interested and haven’t seen it, the article by Robert Kaplan on the importance of using naval power to prolong the hegemony of an empire/superpower can be found in the March/April, 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs. The article is entitled, “Centerstage for the 21st Century: Power Plays in the Indian Ocean.”
    Unfortunately only the first couple of pages can be read for free; the rest of the article you have to pay for (unless you’re a Foreign Affairs subscriber).
    …,
    You make a very interesting point that I hadn’t thought of. China could play the same role to hinder American progress in Afghanistan that the United States played during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. And I don’t have the slightest doubt that China could do this very successfully if it were inclined.
    Kaplan points out that China and the United States have a confluence of interests in Afghanistan, but JohnH quoted a Chinese official who seemed quite hostile to the U.S. policies there.
    It will be very interesting to see how all of this works out.

    Reply

  30. ... says:

    i watched the movie ‘charlie wilsons war’ last night for the first time… interesting parallels to the current events in afganistan… i wonder if the same approach could be expressed towards the usa as the usa expressed towards the ussr here? or is it china that will be playing usa’s previous role in the 80’s?? interesting to think of parallels and the movie was worth the watch…

    Reply

  31. Paul Norheim says:

    The fact that they have Kaplan is good news, because that`s the kind of books I would
    be most interested in.
    There are strong rumors that Apple will release a tablet PC – something like a big
    iPhone with a ca 10″ screen – in the beginning of next year. This may be an
    interesting alternative to the Kindle. I think I`ll wait until next summer to see how
    this is developing if Apple gives Amazon some competition.
    Whatever the book prices, they`ll certainly be much cheaper than the ones we buy in
    Norwegian book stores. And my shelfs are full…
    In addition to English books, I assume they will eventually offer a lot of books in
    German. And in that case, I`ll be a happy camper.
    Thanks for your reply!

    Reply

  32. WigWag says:

    Paul,
    A couple of other things about the Kindle.
    Amazon announced the price will be $279 in Europe; I’m not sure what that is in Krone or Euros.
    In answer to your question, many hundreds of books pertinent to foreign affairs, current events and history are available,but it happens very frequently that a book I want hasn’t yet been released for Kindle.
    I don’t know this for a fact, but my guess is that while hundreds of thousands of titles are available in English, I doubt very many titles are available in Norwegian or other languages; but you have to check.
    Technologically the device is great. It’s light to carry, very easy to operate and the screen is very easy to read.
    I even take it to the beach with me.

    Reply

  33. WigWag says:

    Paul,
    There is a big announcement on the Amazon Website that Kindle is now available throughout Europe including Norway.
    Amazon sells every kind of book both fiction and nonfiction.
    In the United States, books can be downloaded from Amazon priced anywhere from $1.00 to $9.99; I don’t know what the pricing in Europe will be. The great thing is that they don’t charge more than $9.99 for any book, which is cheaper than you can buy a paperback for.
    Not all books are available (I think its about 375,000 titles that they are currently selling) but I have checked for you and most but not all of Robert Kaplan’s books are available for sale on Kindle. They can be downloaded in their entirety in about 90 seconds.
    The other great thing, Paul is that many books are available for download for free (out of copyright) from sources like manybooks.net and the Guttenberg Project.
    Right now, Paul, I have the equivalent of over 30 thousand pages (hundreds of books)stored on my Kindle.
    If you have any other questions about the Kindle, Paul, just let me know.

    Reply

  34. WigWag says:

    I’m not sure that you’re right about Kaplan’s thesis, JohnH, though you might be.
    As I read Kaplan’s essay I thought he was making the case that even though China, Russia and India benefit more from America’s War in Afghanistan that the United States does, that the United States still has little choice but to stick it out.
    From reading alot of Kaplan, I think Kaplan believes that all empire/superpowers are fated to decline including the United States. I think Kaplan believes that conflicts like the one we are engaged in Afghanistan are precisely the type of conflicts that benefit what he calls “freeloaders” like China, India and Russia while hastening the decline of the hegemon.
    Nevertheless, I believe that Kaplan believes that the United States needs to do what hegemons do; make the world a better place by fighting Wars like the War in Afghanistan.
    If you know anything about Kaplan, you know that he thinks American hegemony is unambiguously good and that since it became a superpower the United States has played a uniquely positive and progressive role in world history. You can agree or disagree, but I don’t believe that there is any doubt that this is what Kaplan thinks.
    Because he views American hegemony in such a positive way, Kaplan would like to extend it as long as possible (he knows that extending it forever can’t be done). Kaplan believes that relying on naval forces (and naval based air power) is the most cost effective and efficacious way for the United States to prolong its superpower status as long as possible.
    But after reading the Op-Ed twice, I still get the impression that while Kaplan might have preferred the use of sea power and air strikes in Afghanistan to begin with, he now feels we have little choice but to *add troops and continue to fight.*
    Those are, after all, his precise words.
    But I happily acknowledge that your interpretation of his remarks could be more on target than mine.

    Reply

  35. Paul Norheim says:

    WigWag
    I read in the papers that now we can finally order a Kindle in Norway too. Does Amazon
    offer many foreign policy related books as well, or only fiction and more popular
    stuff?

    Reply

  36. JohnH says:

    Wigwag–you misread Kaplan’s “punch line.”
    “Of course, one COULD make an excellent case that …we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.”
    BUT “history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad.”
    The real punch line: others benefit if we’re successful. We don’t. “In nuts-and-bolts terms, if we stay in Afghanistan and eventually succeed, other countries will benefit more than we will. China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible…This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.”

    Reply

  37. LInda says:

    Hasn’t it really always been about Afghanistan as a pipeline route?
    Back in mid-1990s Zalmay Khalilzad, while at RAND, also worked for Cambridge Energy Research Associates and did risk analyses about a pipeline through Afhganistan for Unocal and Hamid Karzai also was involved.
    There’s a wonderful descprition in Paul Sperry’s largely ignored book, “Crude Politics,” about how in 1997 Unocal invited Taliban leaders to their headquarters in Sugarland, TX and put them up in a five-star hotel in Houston, took them to the zoo and on tour of NASA headquarters, helicoptered the over oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, and even took them on a shopping trip to Target at the mall.
    Nobody has built the pipeline because it’s not worth the investment until the country is stable. And Karzai as President surely hasn’t achieved that nor has our military presence.
    It seems to me that it was about pipelines well before 9/11 and still is about that and a lot of geopolitics—except that it’s our military who are dying every day in Afghanistan.
    Deja vu and endless war over and over and over again.

    Reply

  38. WigWag says:

    Two other things about Robert Kaplan.
    1) He is truly an excellent writer and his books are all worth a read. It’s no wonder he’s such a good reporter (even if his politics can be a little hard to take), he started off his career at the Atlantic Monthly (where he remains to ths day). Unless I’m mistaken, the great James Fallows was one of his mentors.
    2) There was a post written by David Shorr at the Washington Note a week or so ago enitled, “The Hopeless State of State – Taking Gen. Zinni’s Provocative Bait”
    In it, Zinni argues for the radical notion of “putting foreign policy responsibilities into military hands to an even greater extent than they already are.”
    Robert Kaplan would almost certainly agree with General Zinni about this. Kaplan views American military personnel including *grunts* as one of the most effective, competent and progressive tools of American diplomacy (and nation building). Like Tom Ricks, Kaplan is a huge fan of the American military and I think he views the military as one of the few competent elements of American Democracy.
    Those interested in Kaplan’s views on all of this should read three of his most recent books,
    *Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts: The American Military in the Air, at Sea, and on the Ground.* Random House, published September 2007
    *Imperial Grunts: On the Ground with the American Military, from Mongolia to the Philippines to Iraq and Beyond* Vintage, published September 2005
    *Warrior Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos* Vintage, published December 2001

    Reply

  39. JohnH says:

    Yes, indeed. China has interests in Afghanistan. And the US interest is nothing more than exacting revenge, as Kaplan suggests? Well, that could finally explain this nonsensical war. It certainly makes sense, particularly in light of the fact that Washington has never been able to concoct any official, strategic case that bears scrutiny.
    Meanwhile, China seems poised to become more involved. Li Qinggong, deputy general of the China Council for National Security Policy Studies, “bluntly calls on Washington to forthwith bring the US military operations in Afghanistan to an end” in an article entitled “Afghan peace needs a map”.
    He continues, “there are no caveats here while making this demand, no alibis. Simply put, the war has only resulted in aggravating the political and social turmoil in Afghanistan, causing great turbulence and violence and it has brought neither peace and stability as the George W Bush administration promised nor any ‘tangible benefits’ to the US itself. ‘On the contrary, the legitimacy of the US military action has been under increasing doubt.'”
    “The article then turns to the role of the international community. On the one hand, it calls for support from the international community for an essentially intra-Afghan peace process. On the other hand, it suggests that the international community should take advantage of the mounting anti-war sentiments in the US and “prompt” Obama to end the war and withdraw troops from Afghanistan.”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KJ02Df01.html
    The US has no natural role to play at the crossroads of East, West and South Asia. The US has chosen to play the game on some one else’s home field, despite all the inherent difficulties.
    It’s time to let those most directly affected settle their differences among themselves.

    Reply

  40. samuelburke says:

    Ben this is priceless…
    “He points out that China and Russia are essentially free-riding
    on the stability and economic benefits that the United States’
    military involvement in Afghanistan brings.”
    the economy is the only force capable of jamming reality down
    the throats of our foreign policy dreamers.
    the dollar is on sale…gold is dear.
    our govt is bankrupt.

    Reply

  41. WigWag says:

    Kaplan is an interesting if somewhat depressing analyst. One might say that ever since his early books, “Balkan Ghosts” and “To the Ends of the Earth” Kaplan has predicted 100 of the world’s last 10 calamities.
    Kaplan’s New York Times Op-Ed is worth a look. Ben Katcher summarizes it nicely but leaves alot out.
    While Ben reiterates Kaplan’s comments about China’s interests in Afghanistan he neglects to mention that Kaplan also spends alot of time talking about India’s and Russia’s interests in a stable Afghanistan.
    I think one of the take home messages of Kaplan’s piece, is that how the Obama Administration manages America’s relationships with emerging powers like China and India and sclerotic but still powerful nations like Russia, will tell alot about how successful the United States is in confronting problem nations like Iran and Afghanistan. It’s about accommodating China’s India’s and Russian legitimate interests while insuring that they accommodate ours. It’s also about getting China and India to play an active and responsible role in the world commensurate with their increasing power, wealth and prestige.
    Ultimately how Obama manages American relationships with China, India and Russia will prove far more consequential in the long run than anything that happens in Israel, Palestine, Iran or even Afghanistan.
    Secondly, the thesis that Kaplan has been peddling recently (see his recent Foreign Affairs article) is that ultimately American naval power is the surest and most cost-effective way to protect American hegemony (and make no mistake, Kaplan is a fan of American hegemony). Kaplan thinks insuring American dominance on the seas is critical to American power. In his Op-Ed Kaplan says,
    *But as much as we hone our counterinsurgency skills and develop assets for the “long war,” history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.*
    And for some reason, Ben Katcher decided to leave out the punch-line in Kaplan’s essay. It seems that even though Kaplan concludes that American intervention in Afghanistan helps China, India and Russia more than anyone else, he still views American victory in Afghanistan as critical.
    Kaplan understands that as the world’s hegemon, the United States has little choice but to stay in Afghanistan for a long slog even though in the end it will probably end up sapping American power.
    Kaplan says,
    *Of course, one could make an excellent case that an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.*
    I’ve always wondered about Kaplan; is he a neocon, a neoliberal, a traditional conservative or a traditional liberal. I’ve read most of his books and I am still not sure what to make of him. The journalist he most reminds me of these days is Tom Ricks (with his obsession on the military and all).
    One thing about Kaplan is clear; he sure is depressing!

    Reply

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